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< >  Dendrocygna viduata - White-faced whistling-duck (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

White-faced Tree duck
Witwenpfeifgans (German)
Dendrocygne veuf (French)
Dendrocygne Ó face blanche (French)
Pato silbador cara blanca (Spanish)
SuirirÝ Cariblanco (Spanish)

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B3, B4, B8, B19, B25, B26

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B96, B97
D1, D8

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
Whistling-ducks generally do well, either in pens or in a park with access to extensive water area and good natural cover. They are gregarious outside the breeding season, and groups may bully smaller duck species, so should be kept in large areas, in which other birds have room to escape. Most need shelter in severe weather and a well-sheltered pen with frost-free night quarters for winter is suggested, or plenty of ground cover and/or straw to stand on, as they are susceptible to frostbite. They may be kept fully-flighted in aviaries, and have also been kept full-winged in open pens, tending not to wander. Perches should be provided at an appropriate height for pinioned or wing-clipped birds. Commercial pellets and grain are suitable for feeding.

Elevated nest boxes are appreciated by most species, although pinioned birds will use ground-level boxes; boxes may be placed over water or land. Eggs may be incubated by bantams and ducklings may be bantam-reared. Many species have been successfully parent-reared in captivity. Pairs kept isolated and fully flighted in a covered pen, with high-hung nest boxes "seldom fail to rear broods" (B7). Whistling-duck species may hybridise with one another and therefore should be kept in separate enclosures, and hybridisation has also occasionally been reported with Netta peposaca - Rosy-billed pochard.

(J23.13.w10, B7, B29, B97).

Species-specific Information:
White-faced whistling-ducks are relatively hardy as adults, easy to keep and attractive in mixed collections. Plentiful water, area for seclusion and opportunities for perching should be provided. They require indoor accommodation in severe/frosty weather. These ducks may be fed grain, pellets, green food, bread.

White-faced whistling-ducks are fairly easy to breed. They sometimes nest in ground vegetation, may also use a ground-level or raised nest box or a hollow log screened with vegetation, usually laying in late April to June. Ducklings may be parent hatched and reared, or an incubator or broody may be used. Care and protection are important for the ducklings initially.

(J23.13.w10, B29, B30, B96, B97, D1).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average closed ring size: L 11.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 17-19 inches, 43-48cm (B3); 38-48cm (B1)
Adult weight General 502-820g (B1); average 1.5lb (B8).
Male 637-735g, average 686g (B3).
Female 502-820g average 662g (B3).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Black with pale subterminal band (just behind nail).
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Dark brown.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Bill Black with pale subterminal band (just behind nail).
Eyes (Iris) Dark brown.

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Adult Male Grey.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Grey.

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Adult Male Head and neck: white face, throat and front half of head to behind eyes, contrasting with black rear of head and rear of upper neck, shading into chestnut foreneck lower hindneck and upper breast.

Lower breast, abdomen, ventral area and tail black.

Flanks vermiculated (finely barred) black and white.

Upperparts dark brown with buff feather edges, particularly on scapulars.

Wing Dark brown.

Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Duller: face and throat grey or pale buff, breast duller chestnut.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts dark olive-brown with large yellow spots on wings and back. Underparts yellow. Face streaked. Bill: Grey
Feet: Grey

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins at the start of the rainy season.
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

On the ground or over water, in long grass or reedbeds, occasionally in tree cavities or forks of branches. Substantial nest of vegetation with no or little down.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 10 (B8).
Range 4-13 (B1); 4-16 (B8).
Egg Description Smooth, creamy white. Size: 47 x 37mm, weight: 36g (B3).

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26-28 days (B1, B8).

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About 8 weeks (B1); 45-68 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Mostly feeds by diving also surface dabbling and wading.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building --
Incubation Both incubate and defend the nest.
Newly-hatched Both look after the ducklings, concealing unfledged youngsters in thick vegetation.


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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Nest in small groups or loose colonies. Form large flocks containing thousands of birds.
Inter-specific Sometimes mix with Dendrocygna bicolor - Fulvous whistling-ducks and Dendrocygna autumnalis - White-backed whistling-ducks in loafing areas, but within these aggregations they generally remain in groups of their own species.

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Sexual Behaviour

Form strong, probably life-long pair bonds.

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Predation in Wild

Ducklings taken by caiman, Jabiru storks, Maguari storks and caracaras.

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Activity Patterns

Loaf during the day on sandbars and mudflats.
Circadian Generally crepuscular or nocturnal, but do also forage during the day.

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Natural Diet


Varied diet including grass, seeds, rice and aquatic invertebrates (molluscs, insects, and crustaceans).

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Tropical America: Costa Rica to north Argentina and Uruguay. Africa: south of Sahara from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to South Africa, also Madagascar and Comoro Islands.

Local movements depending on water availability.

Occasional and Accidental

Occasionally move longer distances: reported in Spain and on Caribbean islands.



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Any wetlands, particularly fresh water in open country, tending to avoid wooded/forested areas.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not globally threatened. May number 2,300,000 in Africa and are also numerous in South America.

CITES listing Cites III in Ghana.
Red-data book listing --
Threats --

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Captive Populations

Common in collections.

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